Thoughts on “I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced” (N. Ali & D. Minoui)

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Nujood Ali is a simple girl enjoying her childhood in one of the villages in Yemen. She was not really sure of her real age because in the countryside, people do not bother with officially registering their children. Her mother deduced that she is 10 but she may be either 8 or 9. Like any other girl, Nujood loves to play and wants to go to school. However, her childhood came to an end when her father arranged for her to be married to a man thrice her age. Forced to stop schooling (she was just starting her second year) and uprooted from her family, she was taken by her husband to an isolated village where she experienced abuse – raped by her husband and physically abused by her mother-in-law.   When Nujood cannot endure much longer, she escaped and went directly to the courthouse and bravely asked the judge for a divorce. The process was a terrible ordeal for Nujood but she was able to finally obtain her freedom, with the help of local advocates.

The book is an autobiography written by Nujood and translated by Delphine Minoui. She recounts her experiences in a simple and direct manner, which makes one pause and remember that it is indeed a child narrating her story. I find such simplicity and directness heart wrenching for it clearly shows Nujood’s vulnerability and innocence. But what’s more admirable and striking with this slip of a girl is her courage while going through an almost insurmountable task. She had the courage to break free from Yemen’s age-old tradition of early-forced-arranged marriages and to challenge such practice, which is still prevalent until today. Her story and her triumph paved the way for child-brides who are in similar circumstances to fight for their rights and even demand their freedom. Furthermore, she was named a “Glamour Woman of the Year in 2008” alongside Hillary Clinton, Nicole Kidman and Condoleeza Rice.

Reading this book made me remember a book entitled, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which also delves in child-brides and their plight, many of whom are in abusive relationships. Nujood’s story gave a concrete “face” to those countless and faceless girls-women.


US Trip, Day 22-23: Miscellany

For the past two days, I’ve been doing different things. Shopping, TV marathon and of course, reading. We shopped for some stuff needed in the house and some of the stuff that I will be bringing home in the Philippines. Furthermore, I have watched countless of episodes of CSI (Vegas, New York and Miami), Law and Order (Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent), and NCIS. And to add: Criminal Minds! I just love this team.  Moreover, I was introduced to some programs dealing with the paranormal, such as Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, and Paranormal Kids. I find these shows really interesting.

When I’m not busy watching the television, I’d be reading. I started reading, “I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.” The plot has similarities with “A Thousand and Splendid Suns” which dwells about girls being forced to marry at  an early age. However, Nujood’s story is way different from the heroines in the latter book. I will be writing my thoughts about the book when I finish it.

Thoughts on “A Thousand Splendid Suns” (Khaled Hosseini)

If Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” blew me away, his second novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” devastated me. It left me reeling, angry and weeping while reading it and yes, long after finishing it. Hosseini has definitely outdone himself in this one.

I’m afraid that this entry is more emotional and heartfelt than my thoughts/reflections on “The Kite Runner,” as I cannot help but be affected for the novel delves into the lives of women and their life struggles. Anything related to women’s plight is something I am passionate about.

The story focuses on the tumultuous lives of two women and how their lives become intertwined. The setting is still Afghanistan and takes place in the last thirty-three years of the country’s war-torn and violent history. The novel is divided in four parts: the first on Mariam, the second on Laila, the third switches back and forth to Mariam and Laila with each chapter, and the fourth and last ends with Laila. Hosseini has woven a tapestry of a masterpiece for he has depicted the lives of the women, who were born in different circumstances but have the same problems, in a haunting, powerful and realistic manner.

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Why? It is so… because the stories of Mariam and Laila, though fictional, reflect the lives of thousands of Afghani women. No. Let me correct that. I would say, the novel reflects the lives of women all over the world, who have suffered on the basis of their gender. Utterly striking in the book is how Afghani women were discriminated against because of their gender – from the practice of forced or arranged marriages with child brides not later than 16 years old; violence against women; absence of social, political and legal mechanisms for protection of women; restricted access to education, health care facilities and employment; the importance of a son compared to a daughter in the family, and so on. Such views and practices are deeply rooted in the old Afghani tradition and the traditional patriarchal gender order. Nana’s words (Mariam’s mother) would resonate throughout, “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”

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Another issue that the book tackles is violence. Violence, in the novel, takes on two forms. On the personal or the intimate level is the violence against women and on the communal or national level is the war and violence experienced throughout the country. Violence against women was manifested in several levels – physical, emotional/mental/psychological, verbal, economic and sexual. It’s all there. Name it, you got it. On the other hand, war or violence experienced by Afghanistan as a nation and as a people also zeroes in on its devastating effects on the most affected population – children, elderly and the women. Yes! Even war has a gender issue. (Alright, enough of my ranting about gender and women issues; it’s just that one of my advocacies is about stopping violence against women and my research involves domestic violence and abused women. I’m going back to the book now, :D)

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a poignant tale of love in different forms, be it romantic, familial, love for country and for God. It also showcases how remarkable the human spirit, through Mariam and Laila, can become. How despite all the tribulations and odds, these women survived, endured and carried on. It is now included in my favorites list; truly unforgettable and moving!